The Covid Recovery Group, led by former chief whip Mark Harper and ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker, is understood to have grown substantially since its launch last Wednesday and now numbers around 70 MPs. The group could humiliate Mr Johnson if he announces the need to extend the current lockdown in England – with the Prime Minister being forced on Labour votes to get any such plan over the line.
I will take a lot of convincing to vote for another full lockdown
Damian Green, Theresa May’s former deputy and MP for Ashford, Kent, supported the introduction of the four-week lockdown which began on November 5 but said he would “take a lot of convincing to vote for another full lockdown”.
He said: “I don’t see why churches can’t hold services even now, and I thought the tiered system should have been given longer to prove it’s worth.”
Tom Tugendhat, who also voted in favour of the November measures, said the Government would have to come up with a different plan if the lockdown failed.
Mr Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee and MP for Tonbridge and Malling, said the restriction were imposed “to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed”.
Boris Johns faces a backbench rebellion against coronavirus lockdown
He said: “If it has achieved that by early December, it has done its job and should be lifted so that the country can get back to work and enjoy Christmas.
“If it hasn’t, we clearly need a new strategy. So I can’t see what a renewed national lockdown would achieve. We’ve also got to think longer term.”
Mr Tugendhat added that “cycles of lockdowns and restrictions are causing chaos with people’s livelihoods and damaging mental and physical health”.
He said: “If I’m going to support more restrictions of any type, we need a thorough exercise across government, assessing the true costs of the action we’re being asked to support, so that we can be sure any of the restrictions are saving more lives than they are costing.”
READ MORE: Chaos erupts in Bristol as HUNDREDS march to demand end of rules
Boris Johnson is coming under pressure from the backbench Covid Recovert Group
Lockdown has had a devastating effect on the economy
Boris Johnson has argued the four-week lockdown is needed to prevent an “existential threat” to the NHS and said he expects England to return to a local tiered system when the measures end on December 2.
But he will face continued resistance from the Covid Recovery Group if he tries to extend any severe measures.
Mr Harper said: “The cure we’re prescribing runs the risk of being worse than the disease.
“The Covid Recovery Group will play its part in helping the Government to deliver an enduring strategy for living with the virus, so that we break the transmission of the disease, command public support, end this devastating cycle of repeated restrictions and start living in a sustainable way until an effective and safe vaccine is successfully rolled out across the population.”
The name echoes that of the European Research Group of Tory Brexiteers, which saw Mr Baker help whip Conservatives into opposing then-prime minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
The group has outlined three “guiding principles” calling on ministers to undertake a cost-benefit analysis of restrictions, to end the “monopoly” of advice from Government scientists and to improve measures to tackle COVID-19 such as test and trace.
A Government scientific adviser has warned the next two weeks will be “absolutely crucial” in ensuring that lockdown ends as planned on December 2.
Professor Susan Michie, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), urged the public to resist breaking current rules, to “be in a position” to spend the festive period with loved ones.
Christmas cancelled? Expert warns numbers are not dropping fast enough[ANALYSIS]
Tice fumes as he calls on Hancock to expose COVID ‘national scandal'[SPOTLIGHT]
Coronavirus R rate DROPS across the UK – infection rate not growing[FOCUS]
UK coronavirus cases
Global coronavirus cases
She also suggested that the announcement of a potential COVID-19 vaccine could lead to complacency with the measures, adding that the jab will make “no difference” to the current wave.
It comes after documents released by Sage on Friday warned a return to the tiered system of coronavirus restrictions will see infections rise again.
When asked what should replace current restrictions when lockdown ends, Prof Michie told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:
“It’s too early to know. I think the next two weeks is going to be absolutely crucial.
“They’re going to be a very challenging two weeks, partly because of the weather, partly because, I think, the promise of a vaccine may be making people feel complacent.”